One of the single most important concepts in marketing and sales is the “Ideal Customer.” Yet it’s an area too few focus on.
When I pose the question, “Who’s your ideal customer,” it’s usually met with an eye roll and sigh. It’s usually answered with:
- “It’s the organizations that buy our products…..”
- “It’s the enterprise….”
- “It’s a C-level executive…”
- “Every company can use our product…”
- “We sell to [insert the name of an industry or market segment]……”
The reality is, not everyone can or should be our customer. Defining our ideal customer enables us to focus on those that are the best fit for our solutions and our companies. Inevitably, they are the most profitable because they recognize the value we create with them. Our win rates are higher, customer satisfaction should be higher, our ability to grow our relationships with them should be higher than with any other segment.
In contrast, our “customers from hell,” are probably far outside our ideal customer profile. These are prospects in which we invest lots of time, struggle to win, inevitably win through deep discounting. And then we have to support them, trying to make them happy. Sure we’ve gotten revenue from them, but they are the most problematic and likely to be the least profitable.
We need to be rigorous in identifying the characteristics of our ideal customers. It’s not just the overall demographics of the company/individuals that we seek to define (e.g., Fortune 500 industrial products company VP’s of manufacturing, VP’s of development, etc.) We have to drill down more deeply into the “persona” of the company. There are certain operating styles: two companies may have nearly identical demographic characteristics, but very different operating styles. Differing attitudes to change, innovation, strategies for serving customers, risk profiles, attitudes on collaboration/partnering, transparency, and so forth.
All of these become elements of our ideal customers. There’s some grouping of these that matches and aligns with what we do. Identifying these, focusing on them maximizes our ability to win and serve those customers profitably. Viciously disqualifying opportunities with customers outside our ideal customer profile maximizes our productivity. Sure they may be buying—but they are highly unlikely to buy from you. Why waste time on an opportunity that you are very unlikely to win? Wouldn’t that time be better invested by working on opportunities that are in our sweet spot?
The fastest way to improve your win rates and sales productivity is focusing on your ideal customers.